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Effects of a spatially heterogeneous nutrient distribution on the growth of clonal wetland plants.

BMC Ecology 2020 November 14
BACKGROUND: Clonal plants are important in maintaining wetland ecosystems. The main growth types of clonal plants are the guerrilla and phalanx types. However, little is known about the effects of these different clonal growth types on plant plasticity in response to heterogeneous resource distribution. We compared the growth performance of clonal wetland plants exhibiting the two growth forms (guerrilla growth form: Scirpus yagara, Typha orientalis, Phragmites australis and Sparganium stoloniferum; phalanx growth form: Acorus calamus, Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani and Butomus umbellatus) grown in soil substrates that were either homogeneous or heterogeneous but had the same total amount of nutrients.

RESULTS: We found that the morphological traits (plant height, ramet number, spacer diameter and length) and biomass accumulation of the guerrilla clonal plants (T. orientalis) were significantly enhanced by heterogeneity, but those of the phalanx clonal plants (A. calamus, S. tabernaemontani and B. umbellatus) were not. The results showed that the benefits of environmental heterogeneity to clonal plants may be correlated with the type of clonal structure.

CONCLUSIONS: Guerrilla clonal plants, which have a dispersed, flexible linear structure, are better suited to habitats with heterogeneous resources. Phalanx clonal plants, which form compact structures, are better suited to habitats with homogeneous resources. Thus, wetland clonal species with the guerrilla clonal structure benefit more from soil nutrient heterogeneity.

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